Alexandrova sloboda is the eldest part of the city and the former residence of Russian princes. Presently, it is the Assumption convent (Успенский монастырь) jointly operated by the Russian orthodoxal church and the museum. Sloboda is the must-see attraction in the whole city: come here to feel the quiet of ancient walls and churches and to learn something about russian history. The present white-painted stone walls were built in 17th century and follow the general style of medieval Russian fortresses. Original ramparts from 16th century can be seen outside the walls. Inside the convent, you find several remarkable buildings:
- Cathedral of St. Trinity (Троицкий собор) built in 1513. The cathedral is rather conservative in its shape and decorations. It resembles the ancient churches of Vladimir, Bogolyubovo, and Yuryev-Polsky, however the stone carvings are few. Inside the cathedral, you find some original frescos from 16th century and two iron gates. The gate in the southern portal was brought from Novgorod during the punitive expedition of Ivan the Terrible in 1570. The other ancient gate is installed in the western portal and also originates from Novgorod. The gates reveal fine carvings depicting biblical stories. Both gates date back to 14th century and evidence the skill of russian craftsmen. The cathedral belongs to the church. Entrance is free.
- Church of the Intercession (Покровская церковь) – the hip-roof church originally built in 16th century. It is the first hip-roof church in Russia. You will hardly feel its beauty from the outside, because this church was the very first attempt to incorporate the hip, a new element in 16th century Russian architecture. Moreover, later annexes, the refectory chamber and the bell-tower, also changed the appearance of the building. Still, its interior remains unique due to the wall paintings (frescos) inside the hip. Hips instead of domes are a distinctive, yet a not very common feature in Russian architecture. The hips were popular in 16th and 17th centuries, while later traditions restricted the hips to bell-towers only. Painting the hips from inside was uncommon even for the medieval tradition. The frescos are painted in dark color and converge to the image of Our Lord in the apex. Overall, they look mystical and awesome. The church was originally attached to the prince palace as an in-house church. The present building of the refectory chamber stands on the spot of the former palace, so in the basement you can still see original stone-work from 16th century and carved portals. The church of the Intercession is a part of the museum. Tickets are sold at the entrance.
- Bell-tower of the Crucifixion (Распятская колокольня) – an unusual building from the middle of 16th century, the time of Ivan the Terrible. This bell-tower is an example of advanced hip-roof architecture with a pointed hip and numerous semi-round kokoshniki below it (yet the tower is just 40 years younger than the church of the Intercession). The adjoining stone building is known as Marfa's Chambers, the place of imprisonment of princess Marfa, the daughter of Tsar Alexey Michailovich. The museum ticket allows to climb up the bell-tower and to enjoy panoramic views of Alexandrov.
- Church of the Assumption (Успенская церковь) is a regular building in the style of 16th–17th centuries. The church was originally constructed around 1525. However, the reconstructions in 1570s and in the 17th century modified the galleries and added the bell-tower. Presently, this church is a part of the museum.
- Further buildings: church of Theodore Stratelates (надвратная церковь Феодора Стратилата: 1682, over-the-gate), church of the Presentation (церковь Сретения Господня: 1682, a small stocky building in russian style), living chamber (келейный корпус: 1682, rebuilt in 19th century), and a number of small buildings from 18th – 19th centuries. These buildings are pretty regular, since they were constructed after the decay of the prince residence, as regular churches and houses in a regular monastery.
Museum (музей-заповедник "Александрова Слобода"), Музейный пер. 20, ☎ +7 (49244) 28-073 (information), 20-397 (excursions), 21-774 (secretary) ([email protected]), . T–Su, 09.00–17.00 (on Friday, till 16.00). Entrance fee: 15–30 roubles for each exhibition, about 150 roubles for the whole museum (2009).
The museum includes seven basic exhibitions. Additionally, it offers a number of scenic "interactive excursions" that reconstruct the medieval atmosphere and show some old russian traditions, however, in a very imitation way. Among the exhibitions, you find
- Palace of Ivan the Terrible – the reconstruction of the prince palace.
- Treasures from three centuries – the collection of old books, icons, textile, and embroidery.
- Tsar court in Alexandrova sloboda – the history of the prince residence and oprichnina.
The must-see exhibition is one in the church of the Intercession (Tsar court in Alexandrova sloboda). Here you find the ivory carved throne of Ivan the Terrible and other original items from 16th century. You will also enter the church and watch the unique wall paintings inside the hip. Downstairs in the same building, one finds the original basement of the prince palace. Other exhibitions are fairly regular.
Cathedral of the Nativity
- Cathedral of the Nativity (Собор Рождества Христова), Советский пер. 11 (near the Cathedral square). The cathedral was built in 1696 and rebuilt in the middle of 19th century. The present appearance reminds the neo-Byzantine style and, to some extent, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. To continue this comparison, the cathedral in Alexandrov has just one dome due to the low significance of Alexandrov in 19th century. The cathedral is rather unusual, yet it is not really nice.
- Church of Bogolyubobo Icon of Our Lady (церковь Боголюбской иконы Божьей матери), Красный пер. 11. A regular church in classicism style from 1800.
- Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov (церковь Серафима Саровского), Вокзальная ул. 8 (near the main railway station). A russian revival building from 1904.
- Church of the Transfiguration (Преображенская церковь), Садово-Огородная ул. 2а (behind the convent). A baroque-style church from 1743, rebuilt in the beginning of 19th century.
- Ivanov's house (дом трактирщика Иванова Е.Н.), ул. Красной молодёжи, 7 (near Sovetskaya ploschad'). A nice building in art nouveau style (1912-1914). Presently, the city administration.
- Pervushin's estate (усадьба Первушина), ул. Советская, 16. The remarkable classicism-style building from the middle of 19th century. It is combined of two parts which are made of different materal (stone in the right and wood in the left), yet decorated in a very similar way.
- Railway station, Комсомольская пл. The original station building from 1870, a nice example of Russian railway architecture.
In the city center, you will find further old buildings from 18th–19th centuries (note the street names: Советская, Первомайская, Военная, Ленина, Революции, Красной Молодёжи). All of them are, however, unremarkable.
- Museum of Marina and Anastasia Tsvetaevas (Александровский литературно-художественный музей Марины и Анастасии Цветаевой), at the junction of Военная ул. and Военный пер. (south from ulitsa Lenina), ☎ +7 (49244) 24-279, 26-674, 25-693. W–Su, 8.30–17.00. The museum occupies the original wooden building where Anastasiya Tsvetaeva, a Russian writer, lived in 1915-1917. Her sister Marina Tsvetaeva, a famous poetess, visited this house and wrote some of her well-known poems here. The managers of the museum do their best to guide every visitor. In fact, visiting the museum without a guide is just impossible, because there are no exhibits to watch. The whole museum is an elegantly furnished room with photos on the walls and an imitation of the footbridge in the middle. The guide will readily tell you about the Tsvetaevas family and also show an exhibition "Alexandrov – the center of 101st kilometer" about people who were prohibited to live in Moscow during the Soviet times and stayed in Alexandrov. The museum is a local cultural center: it hosts musical and poetical performances, books about Marina Tsvetaeva are also sold here. Entrance fee: 60 roubles (2009).
- Museum of artificial stone (Музей рукотворного камня), Институтская ул. 1 (south from the railway station), ☎ +7 (49244) 92-546. M–Fr, 8.00–17.00; excursions can also be booked for the weekend. The museum is attached to the institute of synthetic crystals where artificial crystals of diamond, sapphire, quartz and other minerals are produced. The exhibition includes natural and artifical stones, the production technology, and the resulting jewelry. The museum shop offers stones produced in the institute.
- Pervushin's house (Усадьба купца Первушина), ул. Советская, 16, ☎ +7 (49244) 24-389, 21-382, 21-604, . Daily, 10.00–18.00. The museum reconstructs the old merchant's life. The museum staff act as the family of Pervushin, the 19th century russian merchant. They will tell you about russian traditions and the history of the house, offer tea and local drinks. The interior is not original which is however compensated by an inofficial (non-museum) atmosphere, the chance to see things in detail and to touch them. Art exhibition (another branch of the museum) can be found in the neighboring building (Советская ул. 5).
The museums of Alexandrov are not very exciting. Aritificial stones are really unusual, while the two other museums try to compensate the lack of exhibits by the intensive (and even troublesome) guidance. The reconstruction of the 19th century life is rather common for russian museums and can be found elsewhere. To learn more about Marina Tsvetaeva, visit the museums in Moscow, Ivanovo, and Tarusa.